Pride within the LGBT+ community has always been an inclusive celebration of sexual and gender identities, and a protest. The rainbow flag was created in 1978 by Gilbert Baker, and first flown at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25th of the same year. The original design consisted of eight stripes. A lack of hot pink fabric resulted in the removal of one stripe. To improve visibility on old lamp-posts, a single blue stripe replaced the turquoise and indigo stripes. Each colour stripe on the rainbow pride flag has its own meaning: red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for harmony/peace, and violet for spirit.
Dividing by race?
The addition of a black and brown stripe, out of such protest, ignores all that the rainbow pride flag symbolises. It also appropriates an established cultural symbol. It also makes little sense, as the extra stripes imply that people of colour are entirely separate from each of the other six colours (life, healing, etc). Where the rainbow pride flag already exists as an inherently inclusive symbol for all the LGBT+ community, there is no need to divide people any more than they already are.
This is where issue over the ‘new’ design begins: segregation. There have been an increasing number of cases where social justice groups have demanded some form of segregation between white individuals and individuals of colour. Such as the proposed ‘day of absence’ event at Evergreen State College, Washington, asking for all white students and staff to leave campus for one day.
There is also the increasing adoption of ‘safe space’ policies and events on university campuses. One infamous case was an event at Goldsmiths University – an event white male students were specifically asked not to attend. Statements by then diversity officer Bahar Mustafa drew criticisms and accusations of sexism and racism, and calls for resignation.
In the case of the rainbow pride flag, this appears to also be the case. If People of Colour need better inclusion, why make them separate on the flag? It would be a massive stretch to presume that each colour in the rainbow pride flag represented racial groups. As far as I am aware, there are no humans with green, blue, or violet skin. There is also a distinct lack of white anywhere on the rainbow pride flag.
Is there existing exclusion?
The LGBT+ community divides into many sub-communities. Sub-communities represent different political affiliations, kinks, sexualities, etc. In a vastly diverse community, this is expected. Is the protest regarding clique based discrimination, or discrimination because of sexual preferences (or both)? Neither result in exclusion from the whole community or Pride events, only from private gatherings and some offers of sex.
The campaign group ‘More Colour More Pride‘ claims that the new flag is a means of “recognizing people of color (sic)” within the LGBT+ community. Racism exists, but Pride has always existed to be inclusive of LGBT+ people of colour. Especially of individuals who experience more abuse than most other LGBT+ individuals. Pride has always recognised and included people of colour; pride doesn’t exist to specifically cater to any racial group.
None of this is to say that people shouldn’t make their own symbols to express themselves freely. There are many different groups of individuals who alter the rainbow flag, adding extra symbols as part of the whole design and to include a further personal element. Various LGBT+ sub-communities have their own flag designs. However, where bizarre examples exist, together with such a specific political statement, there are a lot of questions to ask.
The bigger picture
The nonsensical change to the pride flag isn’t the only concern over exclusivity within pride events. Demands at specific Pride events by social justice groups, usually Black Lives Matter (BLM), call for restriction of police attendance. For example, local BLM activists in Toronto had demanded for an exclusion of all uniformed police – all in the name of inclusivity. This is being echoed by local BLM activists in New York, as well as concerns over attendance of NYC Pride by Toronto police persons and union representatives. Chicago Pride organisers have also been accused of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism after marchers carrying rainbow flags overlaid with the Star of David were expelled, amid claims they “made people feel unsafe”.
Cases such as the above only demonstrate growing intolerance to inclusivity. Intolerance by social justice warriors towards those they don’t like, whilst simultaneously protesting lack of inclusivity. They demand that they be better included… separately.